Understanding and strengthening effective coral reef governance: a map & compass to guide strategic change in Southeast Asia

Schuttenberg, Heidi Zabriskie (2010) Understanding and strengthening effective coral reef governance: a map & compass to guide strategic change in Southeast Asia. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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View at Publisher Website: https://doi.org/10.25903/g9qy-mg72



Coral reefs are the most productive and biologically diverse marine ecosystems, and they provide ecosystem services to an estimated half billion people through fisheries, tourism, and coastal protection. To protect these values, significant investments have been made to stem reef decline, resulting in successes on a case by case basis. Overall however, the accelerating scope and scale of the threats facing coral reefs have overwhelmed existing governance regimes, creating a widespread call to improve the effectiveness of coral reef governance. My research addresses the problem of how to better learn from on‐going experiences in coral reef governance to reverse the current degradation of reef ecosystems.

Improving effectiveness is simultaneously a process of strengthening individual initiatives and learning from experiences across a range of sites to develop a body of theory that can be used to diagnose and improve diverse governance arrangements. To date, the process of learning from past experiences has been fragmented, largely because the complexity of the governance enterprise confounds a straight‐forward understanding of how lessons learned from one initiative might appropriately be applied elsewhere. All programs facilitating coral reef governance vary in their specific goals, the management strategies they implement, their organizational characteristics, and the socio‐ecological contexts in which they operate. Given this complexity, what approach can be used to move beyond context‐specific, case‐by‐case successes to achieve effective governance on scales that can turn the tide on coral reef decline?


My doctoral research aims to address this problem by adapting a framework from organizational theory. I develop a conceptual typology—“or Map and Compass”— that contextualizes the experiences of individual coral reef governance programs toward better planning, cross‐site learning, and theory development (Thesis Part 2). The typology complements existing approaches for evaluating the effectiveness of coral reef governance by providing an innovative strategy for generalization. I then apply the Map and Compass in Southeast Asia to develop a field taxonomy that describes approaches to coral reef governance being implemented in that region (Thesis Part 3). This field application serves to validate the Map and Compass. It also provides insights into the key assumptions underpinning dominant approaches to coral reef governance in Southeast Asia, which suggests ways they might be further strengthened.

The Unified Effectiveness Framework: A Map of Effectiveness in Coral Reef Governance

Part 2 of my thesis develops a conceptual typology of effective coral reef governance. Effectiveness is not a discrete concept, but a multidimensional construct. The conceptual map provides an overarching, visual framework that explicitly describes effectiveness, and offers a common denominator for appropriately comparing coral reef governance programs to strengthen theory and practice. Because it is a comprehensive description of effectiveness, the conceptual map is called the Unified Effectiveness Framework (UEF).

The UEF was developed by replicating an approach from organizational theory. As an input to this analysis, I conducted a detailed review of 12 evaluation systems related to coral reef governance, and identified a comprehensive list of the concepts included under the umbrella construct of effectiveness. I then used an on‐line survey to elicit opinions from 80 experts in coral reef governance about the similarities between 17 concepts that spanned the breadth of the effectiveness construct. Analyzing these data with multidimensional scaling produced a picture of the experts’ shared mental model of effectiveness.

My analysis found a high degree of consensus among the experts around the resulting conceptualization, which organized effectiveness along two axes: the balance between social versus ecological goals, and the balance between governance processes versus governance outcomes. Using the literature, I demonstrate that the four quadrants which emerge from these axes are highly aligned with the major theoretical paradigms relevant to coral reef governance: Integrated Coastal Management, Community‐Based Management, Ecosystem‐Based Management, and Adaptive Management. My review describes the inherent tensions and complementarities between these four governance paradigms, and develops a set of hypotheses that become the basis for further validation of the UEF through field testing in Southeast Asia.

A Field Taxonomy of Approaches to Coral Reef Governance in Southeast Asia

Part 3 of my thesis applies the Unified Effectiveness Framework to develop a theory-based taxonomy of the approaches currently being implemented by coral reef governance programs in Southeast Asia. The taxonomy identifies patterns in the goals, strategies, organizational characteristics, and socio‐ecological context of 61 programs facilitating coral reef governance in the region.

Using a stratified sampling design, I collected data from coral reef governance programs in the Southeast Asian countries of Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, and Thailand through 200 surveys administered by local field assistants. The mixed methods survey collected detailed information on the investments each program made in 65 different management strategies, and the respondents’ perceptions of the programs’ organizational characteristics, accomplishments, and socio‐ecological context. Following an approach from organizational theory, one section of the survey, called the UEF Compass, collected information that allowed me to draw a profile of each program on the Unified Effectiveness Framework. I tested the reliability and validity of the UEF Compass with a confirmatory factor analysis, and the results validated the measurement properties of the Compass.

I hierarchically clustered the 61 coral reef governance programs using data collected with the UEF Compass, and identified five distinct approaches to coral reef governance. Using analysis of variance, discriminant analysis, and qualitative research methods, I describe each of these approaches in terms of its theory‐of‐action, management strategies, programmatic and contextual characteristics, and reported strengths and weaknesses. The five approaches are traditional park management, community‐based management, collaborative management, adaptive management, and a “balanced” approach that focuses on volunteer restoration and livelihood enhancements.

Conclusions: Reconciling Theory with Practice

I conclude the thesis by comparing the hypotheses represented by the Unified Effectiveness Framework with the results of the Field Taxonomy for Southeast Asia to assess the validity and usefulness of my proposed “Map and Compass.” I determine that the UEF exhibits the essential characteristic of a good typology, which is the ability to simplify multidimensional complexity in meaningful ways. I also identify three discontinuities between theory and practice that warrant further research. Overall, I find that there is support for the Unified Effectiveness Framework as a valid and useful typology for interpreting and contextualizing practical field experience.

Item ID: 16711
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: coral reefs, governance, Southeast Asia, sustainability, management, environmental governance
Date Deposited: 08 Apr 2011 05:56
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050202 Conservation and Biodiversity @ 34%
05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050209 Natural Resource Management @ 33%
16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1608 Sociology > 160801 Applied Sociology, Program Evaluation and Social Impact Assessment @ 33%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9606 Environmental and Natural Resource Evaluation > 960605 Institutional Arrangements for Environmental Protection @ 33%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9606 Environmental and Natural Resource Evaluation > 960609 Sustainability Indicators @ 34%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9605 Ecosystem Assessment and Management > 960503 Ecosystem Assessment and Management of Coastal and Estuarine Environments @ 33%
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